Music is a natural mnemonic device. We’ve all learned songs in school to help us memorize things like the alphabet, the 50 states and even the process by which a bill becomes a law (Schoolhouse Rock, anyone?), but music can also be very useful in committing a new language to memory. And just like using books, tv shows or podcasts, language learning with music is a fun and useful supplement to add to your toolbox.
This guide to language learning with music will give you some tips to make the most of your time listening to tunes. Scroll to the bottom for our language-specific guides, complete with Spotify playlists of songs to help you learn!
Diving into the lyrically complex deep end when you’re just starting out will probably be overwhelming. Instead, start with songs that use simple vocabulary and are easy to understand. We’ve created some beginner playlists on our Babbel USA Spotify that serve this purpose well. You may also want to explore some bilingual music, so that you’ll understand some of the lyrics and can use context clues to help you figure out the rest.
Lyrics Are Your Friend
Much like using subtitles when you watch foreign language TV shows or movies, written-out lyrics will help guide you when language learning with music. You can usually find lyrics by just Googling the name of the song or checking the artist’s website. Have them pulled up so you can follow along while listening, which is particularly helpful for visual learners and will make sure you know how the words you’re hearing are spelled.
Sing Along To The Song
If karaoke night is the highlight of your week, put that love of singing into practice when using music to learn a language. After you listen to the song and read the lyrics a few times, sing along! Then try singing without looking at the lyrics.
A study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found evidence that singing can help facilitate language learning. Sixty adults participated in the study, which involved 15 minutes of listening to Hungarian phrases and then repeating the phrases normally or through song. When the participants were tested on the material, the researchers discovered those who used singing scored higher than the others.
Look For Music Videos
If you find a song that you’re digging, especially if it’s a more difficult one, check to see if there’s an accompanying music video you can watch. The video may help reinforce the new words and phrases you’re learning by putting them in context and creating visual associations so they stick in your mind. It also can be helpful for pronunciation to see how native speakers (er, singers) move their mouths. Most music videos live on YouTube or Vimeo, so start there in your search.
Language-Specific Guides And Playlists
We have a variety of different articles with recommendations for songs and playlists to listen to based on the language you’re learning. Find the language, level and vibe that’s right for you!
- Spanish For Beginners
- Spanish Summer Playlist
- 5 French Playlists
- German For Beginners
- German For All Music-Lovers
- 5 German Playlists
- Swedish For Beginners
Check out all of our playlists on Babbel USA’s Spotify page.